The federal judge who ordered the reunification of children kidnapped from parents at the southern border under the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy “appeared poised” during a court hearing this week to order the Trump administration to fully account for and reunite potentially thousands of families who were ripped apart prior to the official implementation of the policy.
Last month, a devastating report from the Office of the Health and Human Services Inspector General confirmed the administration was separating families from the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. "How many more children were separated is unknown,” government investigators said, “by us and HHS." It’s also unknown how many were returned to their families, and how many were left with sponsors.
Following the report, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would ask Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the reunification of “zero tolerance” victims last summer, to expand his order to include these families. During the Thursday hearing, he appeared to be strongly considering it, at least beginning with requesting a list of who was stolen from whom. "It's important to recognize that we're talking about human beings," he said. "Every person needs to be accounted for."
It speaks to the cruelty of administration officials that they had to be reminded of this. In fact, government attorney Scott Stuart urged Sabraw not to expand his order because it would be just too much work, saying that “I’m just not sure that we can keep going.” The federal government that made the decision to kidnap children at the border and has declared emergencies over non-emergencies now says it’s just too hard to return them all to their families. That’s just not gonna fly.
The ACLU, which lacks the tremendous resources of the federal government but has nevertheless stepped in to do tremendous work to reunite families, is again willing to be part of another effort. "We cannot go back into these communities and tell them we are not going to make the effort," said attorney Lee Gelernt. "I suspect there are parents who want to get their children back and have not been able to."
Friday, Feb. 22, marks 211 days since Sabraw’s reunification deadline. Family separation remains a crisis.